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Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room. - Jeff Bezos
I was writing an article this morning for another guest post. After writing my first draft, I did a quick Google search on the keywords I've been using to know what has already been written about my topic. Those keywords usually include 'freelance,' 'freelancing,' 'personal branding,' and 'LinkedIn.'
So, I typed in the search box: 'freelancer personal brand.' As you can see below, I got 868,000 results in 0.43 seconds.
That was a lot, but I wasn't surprised because I've searched these same keywords many times in the past. I just wanted to know this time if anything new about the topic appeared on the first few pages of the search engine results.
The surprise came when I started looking at the results on page 1. The Forbes article This Filipina Freelancer Shares 9 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand on LinkedIn, which I've worked on with Forbes contributor Joe Escobedo, was #4 on the search results.
Then I went on and scrolled down a bit on the same page. And I've found the article I submitted to Epic Freelancing on Medium, Freelancers Need a Personal Brand. Here's How to Get Started, on #7.
I was staring at my laptop monitor for a minute, and I couldn't believe it.
A few weeks ago, I was just a reader...
The truth is, I've already read most of those articles that appeared on the first and second page. After reading them, I realized:
- Some of them advised freelancers to use LinkedIn, among other platforms, in developing a personal brand to help freelancers stand out.
- None of them, however, gave a step-by-step guide or any actionable tips on how exactly freelancers could use LinkedIn for personal branding.
So I thought, perhaps, I could fill in that gap. I didn't want to say what they had already said. I wanted to capture the readers who might be looking for answers that those articles didn't include.
After much thought, I decided to write about how freelancers could use LinkedIn in building their brands to attract their ideal clients. My content was based not merely on what I know but on what has worked for me.
So, what lessons can you, as a freelancer, take from this experience?
Developing a personal brand does not only mean finding your voice—but finding your 'unique' voice, which will be the foundation of your brand.
With a personal brand, you don't need to wait for people to choose you. You can create your own story. But first -- find your unique voice.
How to Find Your Unique Voice
You might ask, "How can I find that 'unique' voice?" Based on what worked with me, here's what I suggest:
Do an inventory of your skills, interests, values and passions
This requires some introspection. It's not an enjoyable process at first, but it will reveal the real you. This personal brand worksheet from PWC can be very helpful. I used a similar worksheet from LinkedIn and Khan Academy before, and I found it a big help to have such a handy document during my 'discovery' days.
Find your niche
Based on the result of #1, decide what you want to focus on and who you want to target. It's best if your focus is the point where your skills, interests, values and passions overlap. Don't forget to leverage your experiences as those will truly separate you from the rest.
Listen to social media buzz
Read online conversations. Find out what content is already out there about your topics or keywords and how netizens are responding. I used Google Trends, Google search and Buzzsumo for this purpose. This is important -- you can't stand out if, in the first place, you don't know what others are already saying or what others had already done.
Join the conversations, but add a unique perspective
There's already too much content out there. Imagine, for typing in three keywords, I got 868,000 results in 0.43 seconds. So, don't add to the noise. Don't allow your content to get lost in the clutter. Add value. Add a new perspective. Offer a new approach to old issues.
Tell your story
Your story will define your personal brand. It will demonstrate your uniqueness and connect you with your target audience. I must admit this is the part that I struggle the most. As an INTJ, based on Myers-Briggs personality test, I prefer working alone. I also wasn't comfortable in telling my stories except with my kids.
But what I learned was that—once you're there, you have to tell your story, and no one else can do that for you. Be willing to get yourself out there.
After making the decision that I was comfortable with putting myself out there, I could begin to do what was necessary in order to gain a bigger reach and a larger audience. -Gary Vaynerchuk
Finding your unique voice is the key to building a strong personal brand that can help you generate business and forge stronger relationships with your professional network.
I ended my morning with another search, this time, a more targeted one. I typed in: "personal brand" AND freelancer AND LinkedIn. I know the results can change anytime, so I captured it on a screenshot before it goes away. Below is the result as of the time of writing.
My article on Social Media Today, 3 Key Steps in Building Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn, appears after Joe's Forbes article.
My final tip—once you've found your unique voice, be consistent, be authentic and own that space. It's yours.
So, what will you do today to start finding your voice?
About Virginia Bautista: A freelance writer and editor for nearly 10 years, Virginia helps businesses win more clients through high-quality, engaging content. Plus, she helps freelancers and other professionals leverage LinkedIn to build a powerful personal brand that generates business.